Eastern Orthodox Church

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Eastern Orthodox Cross

The Holy Orthodox-Catholic Church of the East is the second largest Christian Church or type of Christianity in the world. It has no head but rather comprises over a dozen autocephalous jurisdictions who are "in communion" (i.e. they agree on all points of doctrine, and baptism in one conveys the right to receive the sacraments from any of the others). The division between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches took centuries of theological and political conflicts which had real casualties on both sides, although since the Second Vatican Council there have been weak attempts at exploring reunification. The doctrinal differences still remain profound.

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The different Orthodox Churches include:


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The Eastern Orthodox Church is the second largest single Christian communion in the world. It is the very same Church established by Christ and his Apostles. It is composed of numerous theologically unified autocephalous which are ecclesial bodies each shepherded by a synod of independent bishops whose duty is to preserve the beliefs and practices (Traditions) of the Church. All Orthodox Christian bishops can trace their lineage back to one of the twelve Apostles through the process of apostolic succession.

The Orthodox Church is:

  • The authentic and original Christian Church established by Jesus Christ and his Apostles.
  • The preserver of the teachings and traditions given to the early Christians by the Apostles nearly 2000 years ago; and the developer of conciliar interpretations which expand and illuminate the original teachings.
  • The preserver of Truth which compares all newer theological ideas to the already established beliefs and practices of the Church; accepting ideas that clarify and correctly teach, while rejecting ideas that are theologically incompatible with the original teachings.
  • The preserver and compiler of the New Testament whose texts were written to members of the Church in ancient times and expressed an already established doctrine.

Members of the Eastern Orthodox Church usually refer to themselves as simply Orthodox Christian. Eastern is a term often applied in the Far-Western World for the sake of clarity. Traditionally the Orthodox refer to themselves as Catholic. Members of the Orthodox Church consider themselves members of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, the Assyrian Church, the Coptic Church, and what is today referred to in the Western World as the Roman Catholic Church are also the One Holy Catholic Apostolic Church. As the Orthodox see it the Assyrians and Copts broke from the church after the first few centuries and the Roman Catholics in 1054. Since then the Eastern Church has referred to itself as Orthodox (Correct Believing). However in Greek, the Greek Orthodox followers call themselves "Catholic" or simply "Roman". Outsiders usually thrust national epithets onto the various Churches within the Orthodox Church for simplification's sake such as Greek Orthodox or Russian Orthodox, which causes confusion for many Orthodox Christians in the Old World.

The Orthodox Church considers Jesus Christ to be the head of the Church and the Church to be His body. It is believed that authority and the Grace of God is directly passed down to Orthodox bishops and clergy through the laying on of hands—a practice started by the apostles, and that this unbroken historical and physical link is an essential element of the true church (Acts 8:17, 1 Tim 4:14, Heb 6:2). Each bishop has a territory (see) over which he governs. His main duty is to make sure the traditions and practices of the Church remain inviolate. Bishops are equal in authority and cannot interfere in each others' territory. Administratively, these bishops and their territories are organized into various autocephalous groups or synods of bishops who gather together at least twice a year to discuss the state of affairs within their respective sees. While bishops and their autocephalous synods have the ability to administer guidance in individual cases, their actions do not usually set precedents that affect the entire church. There have been, however, a number of times when heretical ideas arose to challenge the Orthodox faith and it was necessary to convene a general or "Great" council of all available bishops. The Church considers the first seven councils (held between the 4th and the 8th century) to be the most important; however, there have been more, specifically the Synods of Constantinople, 879–880, 1341, 1347, 1351, 1583, 1819, and 1872, the Synod of Iaşi (Jassy), 1642, and the Pan-Orthodox Synod of Jerusalem, 1672, all of which helped to define the Orthodox position. These councils did not create the doctrines of the church but rather compared the new ideas to the traditional beliefs of the Church. Ideas that were not supported by the traditions of the church were deemed heresy and expunged from the church. The ecumenical councils followed a democratic form with each bishop having one vote. Though present and allowed to speak before the council, members of the Imperial Roman/Byzantine court, abbots, priests, monks and laymen were not allowed to vote. The bishop of the old Roman capital, the Pope of Rome, though not present at all of the councils, was considered to be president of the council and thus called “First Among Equals” until the great schism of 1054. One of the decisions made by the second council and supported by later councils was that the Patriarch of Constantinople, since Constantinople was the New Rome, should be given the honor of second in rank. Later, because of the split with Rome, the honor of presiding over these general councils was transferred to the Patriarch of Constantinople who was also given the title, "First Among Equals", reflecting both his administrative leadership and his spiritual equality. He is not, however, considered to be the head or leader of the church.

Nowadays, there are 17 autocephalous Orthodox churches, in full communion with each other, with the precise order of seniority of their heads as listed below. Some of them contain autonomous (marked below) and/or semi-autonomous dioceses (listed within the mother churches). The first nine of the autocephalous churches are led by patriarchs.

Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople

  • Autonomous Mount Athos
  • Not officially autonomous but the "Na Seanchreidmhigh" (singular: " An Seanchreidmheach," "sean-chreideamh" is "the old faith/belief/creed") of Ireland found in Armagh and with parishes now in most major cities that left the Glastonbury Patriarchate in 1893 over a liturgical dispute compounded in intensity by the Kemrese occupation of Ireland and the nationalist awakening of its people. The breakaway sect joined the Orthodox Church in 1905 in order to gain ecclesiastical legitimacy in the face of Catholic criticisms. They initially applied to join the Moscow Patriarchate, but instead joined the Jerusalem Patriaechate as its had a presence in the Federated Kingdoms nearby and so they commemorated their bishop in London. Several years later they switched to the jurisdiction of Constantinople after Irish independence from Kemr in 1922. Although their autonomy is only de-facto, not de-jure, their bishop and almost all of their priests, deacons, and laity are Duine na hArd Mhacha ("people of Armagh") who only receive a small amount of funding from Constantinople and they've never had any real interference from the ecumenical synod of which their bishop is officially a part. Byzantinization has been minimal and slow coming, and the Ecuemenical Patriarchate has never sent Greek missionaries in Ireland, leaving evangelism as in-house endeavor for the Armachians to accomplish. Their liturgy is celebrated in modern Gaeilg, not Latin as it had previously been during the Kemrese occupation.
  • Metropolis of Western Europe

Patriarchate of Alexandria

  • African Orthodox groups in the African Continent
    • Eparchy of Africa (founded in 1936 and formerly known as the Eparchy of Naujasis Vilnius, renamed the Pakštuvan Orthodox Church whose autonomy was never recognised, and in 1942 moved to Salisbury, Rhodesia where it rejoined the global Orthodox Church under the Patriarchate of Alexandria and changed its name again in 1952. It is primarily found amongst Lithuanian-Slavic communities in southern Africa and eastern Africa but has done a great deal of missionary work in Eastern Africa and manages the sole Orthodox parish in Jakobina, Gambia, part of the RTC)

Patriarchate of Antioch

Patriarchate of Jerusalem

  • Church of Mount Sinai (autonomous)

Russian Orthodox Church (Patriarchate of Moscow and of all Russia)

  • Belarusian Exarchate
  • Estonian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate)
  • Latvian Orthodox Church
  • Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (autonomous; union completed on May 17, 2007 after SNORist remnants in the Moscow Patriarchate were purged to the synod's satisfaction.)

Serbian Orthodox Church (Patriarchate of Peć and of all Serbia)


Romanian Orthodox Church

Bulgarian Orthodox Church (Patriarchate of Sofia)


American Orthodox Church (autocephalic-status in question)

  • Lithuanian Eparchy of America (established in 1978 in Tejas and has jurisdiction over all parishes founded by and for Lithuanians and lithuanianized Slavs in North America)
  • Eparchy of Mejico established in 1974 after about 110,000 members of the former breakaway sect The Mejican National Catholic Church converted en-masse to the Orthodox Church in 1972. The M.N.C.C. was formed by a movement of leftist activists away from global Catholicism which they perceived to be on the side of oppressive landowners and politicians and had too much political power in the country. The M.N.C.C. adopted a great deal of both dogmatic and non-dogmatic points that matched the positions of the Orthodox Church: namely the ability for married men to become priests (any priests that came with to the new denomination married as clerics, which is canonically non-allowed in the Orthodox Church but these priests were received by the A.O.C's bishops through oikonomia, or "deviation from the letter of the law in order to adhere to the spirit of the law and charity"), liturgy in the vernacular (most parishes switched to Nahuatl but some use Castilian), the sacrament of communion in both body and blood to the laity, the opposition to papal oversight (supremacy versus primacy), and the disbelief in the permanence of Hell. The founders of the Mexican Nat'l Catholic Church reached out to the Metropolis in Zalsan Agre of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, but the Holy Synod determined that it would be better to place them under the much closer Metropolis of Chicago of the A.O.C. than far away Z.A. While many if not most Mexican parishes kept their Western Rite (albeit in a byzantinized form to explictly demonstrate Orthodox theology for the faithful in the liturgy), some switched wholesale to the Byzantine Rite. Castilian copies of the Divine Liturgy were already available, but it took many years to translate the Divine Liturgy into Nahuatl, being only ready to be celebrated in 2003. The Mexican Exarchate has grown approximately 1.1-1.2 million people and is the largest Western Rite Orthodox organization in the world.

Lithuanian Orthodox Church

  • Eparchy of Vilnius (established in 1924)
  • Eparchy of Kūvalas (established in 1926)
  • Eparchy of Gardinas (established in 1924)
  • Eparchy of Warsina (established in 1954)
  • Eparchy of the East (Autonomous Gudijan Orthodox Church in Minsk)

Philippine Orthodox Church, This church was given autonomy by the Chinese branch in 1982 due to Russian request and politics at that time and as a proposal of Saint John Maximovitch, who helped built the community in Filipinas along with Russian refugees from China who did not want the SNORist regime. Became fully independent from the Chinese church in 1990. While it fully follows Eastern Orthodox practices, several Borneian Church's rituals were retained.

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